Jack Cust Could Provide Tampa Bay Rays With Adam Dunn-Like Upside

By Thom Tsang
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Since coming into the league at the age of 22 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, there is one thing that Jack Cust has done better than almost all MLB players – drawing walks. In fact, Cust’s 17.2 percent career walk rate is second among his peers since that time, behind only the incomparable Barry Bonds.

It’s a statistic that seems unlikely enough to bear repeating: yes, nobody in the major leagues has drawn walks as well as Cust has since Bonds.

That’s not all, though. With a career .197 ISO, and a 21.1 HR/FB ratio, Cust has a massive home run swing too, even if it happens to be full of holes (31.7 percent strikeout rate). Still, his career .242/.374/.439 triple-slash compares rather favorably to that of the current gold standard for three-outcome hitting in the big leagues – Adam Dunn, who owns a .240/.370/.499 triple-slash across over his career, and a 22.0 HR/FB ratio.

Neither player hits for average, but where Dunn has more raw power, Cust draws more walks. So why does Dunn have $30 million committed to him through 2014, while Cust wasn’t even deemed good enough to play in the majors last season?

The Tampa Bay Rays are the latest team to try and find out, as they have signed the 34-year-old to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, where Cust will attempt to earn a backup DH role behind Luke Scott.

Cust spent all of last season between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays‘ AAA teams in 2012, posting a .243/.400/.442 triple-slash in AAA, while hitting 20 homers over 493 PA. Given his league-best ability to get on base, you can imagine why Cust thrived in the Oakland Atheltics‘ system, as he hit at least 25 homers in three straight seasons with the A’s from 2007-09.

He likely won’t get back to those kinds of numbers at this point, but the slugger still showed excellent patience while in the minors last year, and there’s not too many reasons to believe he can’t provide that kind of three-outcome depth that would be very useful coming off the bench.

At worst, the Rays will simply have him as a ongoing insurance policy for Scott, who will be looking to rebound from a poor injury-plagued first season with the team.

If called upon, there’s no reason why Cust couldn’t be the same type of floor that Carlos Pena has been at over the last couple of years, and those didn’t stop Pena from getting a full-time DH job.

At best? Well, the lefty bat probably won’t hit as many homers as Dunn because he’s not as much of a fly-ball hitter, but his power isn’t far off, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the former 33-homer hitter can provide a Dunn-lite type of impact for the Rays in 2013.

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